A Great Time to Be an Engaged Investor

For better or worse, we interact with money every day. It is involved in our daily decision making, family lives and careers. It can dictate our vacations, our schooling and even our diet. Thank you to Katie for giving us all a reason to take a step back and think about our interactions with money and ask ourselves: how does money shape our communities and our world?

Many of us are already taking steps to spend locally and save our money with a community bank or credit union. Our communities will be stronger because of this. Yet, another often overlooked vehicle for change is your investment account – yes, whether it’s that little Roth IRA that you opened years ago, or the family foundation for which you are trustee, you can have an impact. But unfortunately, few of us can say with confidence that our investments are even remotely aligned with our worldview.

Today, over 70% of publicly-traded shares of US companies are owned by institutional investors (mutual funds, pension plans, etc…) compared with 8% in 1950’s. With this significant amount of ownership, comes significant voting power and influence over a given corporation.Increasingly, those votes are being cast on issues such as sustainability reporting, greenhouse gas reductions, energy efficiency goals, disclosure about hydraulic fracturing operations, executive compensation and political contributions. In fact, 40% of all shareholder resolutions submitted to US publicly-traded companies in 2012 were on social & environmental policies and practices. It is a great time to be an engaged investor!

I began focusing my financial planning and investment consulting business on sustainable and responsible investment strategies in 1986. Times have changed and our movement has evolved fantastically, but this is the most exciting time I can remember. More people are choosing sustainable and responsible investment strategies, more companies understand that managing their environmental and social impacts can lead to better business and we have better tools to monitor how our money managers are wielding their shareholder power. We can all create change by ensuring that the investments we own – be it individually or through a money manager – are being used to actively encourage transparency, accountability and responsibility. Visit us at for additional information on shareholder engagement and sustainable responsible impactful investing.

Eric Smith, CFP®, AIF®, is the Founder and Director of Strategy and Advisory Services at Goodfunds Wealth Management ( in Seattle. Advisory services and securities through KMS Financial Services, Inc.


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